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Rodman: Patrick's gained knowledge will lead to success

August 04, 2011, Dave Rodman,

Speculation about Danica Patrick coming to NASCAR full-time has recently intensified, but it's been building ever since the Indy car regular could have scored her first Nationwide Series top-10 in only her third career stock car race last season at Las Vegas.

Things were going that well until Patrick appeared to be taken out in a case of spite, and in the 19 races comprising Patrick's NASCAR career, her effort in July at Daytona nearly resulted in her first win this season.

Whether or not Daytona's two-car draft would've resulted in an anomaly or not is irrelevant. In six races this season, Patrick's average finish -- 14th -- is half of what she averaged in 13 races in 2010.

"Yeah -- I mean, she's a racer, man. She's got that mentality, she's got a fight in her, she's feisty but she understands it and she wants to know more"


The only stock car crew chief she's ever had, JR Motorsports' Tony Eury Jr., put Patrick's potential in perfect context after Daytona. Patrick worked traffic and tandem drafting to perfection all night, including one instance in which she backed off of traffic to avoid a pileup, then reconnected with Tony Stewart to get back up front.

"She is awesome," Eury said. "You don't know what more to say. I'm impressed with her. We hit the wall on the first lap of practice, then went out there and run 20 laps and in 20 laps we taught her how to do that -- how to back up to people -- because she didn't have a clue in February because we wouldn't let her.

"We didn't want to put her in a predicament where people didn't trust her and people didn't respect her. We told her 'when we come [to Daytona] in July, we're going to teach you how to do that. Now that you know one side, we're going to teach you the other side.'

"And she took it to a whole 'nother level. It's amazing when you understand how big a change that would be -- or how big a win it would be for her. It's awesome to me because I've known her since she first set in the [stock] car."

Eury almost jumped at the questioner when asked if he preferred Patrick behind the wheel every week.

"Yeah -- I mean, she's a racer, man," Eury said. "She's got that mentality, she's got a fight in her, she's feisty but she understands it and she wants to know more. The only thing you've got to do is keep feeding her information and she just accepts it and keeps going."

Eury has been part of plenty of championships and race wins with high-caliber drivers throughout his career, so when he sums-up Patrick's ability to absorb, learn and apply everything she's being inundated with -- it's easy to see why she can't help but succeed in NASCAR.

"There's nobody in either one of these garages that's ever been like this girl," Eury said. "She is something unique, something special and if you take the time with her, it's pretty damned incredible and I'm just honored to be a part of it."

At the Nationwide level, a deal with JR, without question, would be good for Patrick and great for the Series.

* Report: Patrick finalizing full-time Nationwide deal

Bonus round

Last weekend, Paul Menard took the early lead in the race for the Sprint Summer Showdown, a program that will enable potentially five drivers to compete for part of a $3 million bonus at Atlanta Motor Speedway. But fans have a deadline before the green flag this weekend at Pocono to participate in the DirecTV Head2Head Bracket Challenge -- a series of elimination rounds that culminates at Bristol with two drivers and a number of fans competing for big bucks and a new ride.

"I think it's pretty cool because it's kind of a random draw for the first round but you get to compete against other guys throughout the four rounds," Busch said. "And then you go up against somebody to win the deal. I guess, to me the best thing to do would be to look at the schedule and figure who'd be racing each other [for the win] and try to line them up correctly."

'For the long haul'

Sprint's announcement the Sprint Summer Showdown is a measure of the wireless telecommunication company's commitment to NASCAR.

That isn't the way the initial random draw works, but it's got Busch's attention.

"[These kinds of promotions] rate pretty high," Busch said. "The DirecTV deal is pretty cool because it's the second year they've done it [Denny Hamlin was champion in the 2010 inaugural] and they put us all in a bracket and we compete against each other from Pocono to Bristol. Fans can win prizes and drivers get money donated to their charity so it's certainly great for both sides -- just like the Sprint deal that has a fan aspect and a charity aspect as well as for the drivers."

The Sprint Summer Showdown qualifies race winners between Indy and Bristol and gives them the opportunity to race for $3 million at Atlanta. If one of the five eligible drivers can win at AMS, they'd earn $1 million, another million would go to a fan and the remainder would go to a charity of the winning driver's choice.

You have to wonder if it would be better to have a four-man race in Late Model Stock Cars at Bristol with the winner and their fan partner taking it all. Busch laughed heartily at the thought.

"That would certainly make things interesting, for sure," Busch said. "But then you've got to get the Late Model cars out there and get them prepared, so [DirecTV Head2Head] kind of seems like a simpler way to do it and it certainly fills in the need for competition that they've got going on."

DateTime (ET)TrackLayout
Aug. 71 p.m.Pocono Raceway2.5-mile triangle
Aug. 141 p.m.Watkins Glen International2.45-mile road course
Aug. 211 p.m.Michigan International Speedway2-mile oval
Aug. 27 7:30 p.m.Bristol Motor Speedway0.533-mile oval
Sept. 4 7:30 p.m.Atlanta Motor Speedway1.54-mile oval

The Head2Head Challenge winning driver will win $400,000 for his charity of choice while one fan has a chance to win a new truck from the manufacturer of the winning driver and $1 million. Fans have until Aug. 6 to submit their brackets online at

White gets a shot

Jason White continues to improve in the Truck Series and will get his first chance at a guaranteed Cup start when he jumps into FAS Lane Racing's No. 32 Ford at Pocono this weekend.

The split venue weekend, with the Nationwide Series at Iowa Speedway, has created a certain amount of shuffling among drivers and teams over what was originally entered. Scott Speed stepped out of Kevin Harvick Inc.'s Chevy at Iowa -- giving another opportunity to David Mayhew -- because of an agreement to drive the No. 37 Ford currently in the process of being transferred from Front Row Motorsports to Larry Gunselman's Max Q Motorsports.

According to a FAS Lane spokesperson, White will replace Mike Bliss in the No. 32 while Bliss drives for TriStar Motorsports at Iowa.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.